Halt hostility, Rohingya outflow from Myanmar
12:00 AM, November 21, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:24 PM, November 21, 2017

Halt hostilities, ensure early return of refugees

Foreign ministers from Asia, Europe make the call at ASEM meet in Myanmar

Attending a conference in Myanmar, foreign ministers from Asia and Europe have called for immediate cessation of hostilities, halting of outflow and early return of externally displaced Rohingyas.

Foreign Ministers of 51 Asian and European countries gathered in Naypyidaw for the two-day event of the 13th Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM), which was opened by Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi yesterday morning.

Taking part in an informal briefing on Rakhine issue in Naypyidaw yesterday, they also called for implementation of recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission for long-lasting-solutions in Rakhine state.

Earlier in the morning, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy had informal meetings with some ministers on the situation in Rakhine State. The meeting was attended by the foreign ministers of Myanmar, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Estonia, Germany, Malta, Russia, Luxemburg, France, Thailand, Hungary, Finland and Sweden.

The High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, has expressed her hope that Bangladesh and Myanmar would reach a decision to sign an MoU and agreement on the safe repatriation of Rohingyas from Bangladesh to their homeland Myanmar. 

"There is a real possibility [of] Myanmar and Bangladesh reaching an MoU and an agreement for the safe repatriation of refugees (Rohingyas)," she told reporters after a photo session with ASEM foreign ministers, reports UNB.

She said the EU is supporting this process and will stand ready to accompany it in the coming week.

"That was extremely encouraging. We discussed the need to start implementing the Annan Commission Report," she said, adding that she is very encouraged by the "willingness and readiness" of the Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi in going in that direction.

Mogherini is among the foreign ministers from Europe and Asia meeting Monday in Naypyitaw, the capital of Myanmar.

“Speakers, in general, agreed in many areas and asked for immediate cessation of hostilities, halting of outflow, early return of externally displaced Rohingyas from Bangladesh, implementation of recommendations of the Kofi Annan Commission for durable solutions,” said a foreign ministry press release.

CHINA PROPOSES THREE-PHASE SOLUTION

Meanwhile, China has proposed a three-phase solution to help settle the issue in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

China believes that the Rakhine issue can be addressed by a solution acceptable to both Myanmar and Bangladesh through consultations between the two neighbouring countries, Wang told a joint press conference Naypyidaw on Sunday with Myanmar's State Counsellor and Foreign Minister Aung San Suu Kyi, Xinhua news agency reported.

The international community and the United Nations Security Council should encourage such efforts by creating conditions and good atmosphere for consultations, he added.

The first phase is to achieve a ceasefire so that local residents can no longer be displaced. Through joint efforts, the ceasefire has been in place, Wang said.

Second, the international community should encourage Myanmar and Bangladesh to keep communication channels open in a bid to find a feasible solution to the issue, he said.

The two countries have reached an initial agreement on repatriation of Rohingya refugees fleeing to Bangladesh from Myanmar.

The third phase is to find a long-term solution. Stressing that poverty is the root cause of turbulence and conflict, the Chinese foreign minister called on the international community to support poverty alleviation efforts in Rakhine state.

Development can lead to stability, Wang said, adding that China's proposal has been backed by both Bangladesh and Myanmar.

SUU KYI GLOSSES OVER ROHINGYA ISSUE

In her opening speech, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi said the world is facing instability and conflict in part because illegal immigration spreads terrorism.

The speech comes as her country is accused of violently pushing out hundreds of thousands of unwanted Rohingya Muslims.

Suu Kyi did not directly mention the refugee exodus in her speech to welcome European and Asian foreign ministers in Naypyidaw, the capital of Myanmar. But her speech highlighted the views of many in Myanmar who see the Rohingya as illegal immigrants and blame the population for terrorist acts, reports AP.

Suu Kyi said conflicts around the world gave rise to new threats and emergencies, citing how illegal immigration spread "terrorism and violent extremism, social disharmony and even the threat of nuclear war."

“FOCUS MORE ON CONNECTIVITY”

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, who is leading a four-member delegation, had bilateral meetings on the sideline with his counterparts from Switzerland, Hungary, Estonia, Finland and United Kingdom, where they exchanged views on the Rohingya crisis, particularly the early return of displaced Rohingyas and stressed the importance of an inclusive and durable solution to the protracted problem.

Meanwhile, the Bangladesh foreign minister reaffirmed Bangladesh's firm commitment to peace and development. He stressed the need for inclusive development by ensuring rights and equal opportunity.

He also highlighted shared interest in encouraging peace, security and stability in the region and beyond. The foreign minister emphasised that marginalisation and denial of basic rights creates insecurities, which can lead to forced displacement and destabilise the region.

Ali cautioned against resurgent nationalism and use of prejudices and exaggerated imaginary threat perceptions. 

He urged ASEM to focus more on connectivity of ideas and culture to reduce tensions among countries and the region while focusing trade and physical connectivity.

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